With Avengers: Age of Ultron now available in theaters everywhere, Kevin and I thought it would be fun to rank all of the previous films from Marvel Studios and decide what is truly the best of the best. That part was easy. The hard part was going back and actually watching all of these movies again. Do you have any idea what kind of toll that takes on you? Kevin is pretty much an insomniac now and I’ve been sick for over a week. Can’t shake it.
That being said, it was a good time setting all of this up and a reminder of just how far the movies have come. We hope you appreciate it though, because it is extremely doubtful we will ever be doing this again. You know, until Captain America: Civil War comes out next year… just kidding, Kevin. Or am I?
10. Thor: The Dark World
Kevin- Back in 2013 I ripped this movie for being overpopulated and boring. Well now it’s 2015 and nothing has changed. We get exposition overload at the beginning, then a lot of stuff happens. What exactly? I don’t know, who cares? Between Earth and Asgard there are too many shuffling parts. And with the massive cast of characters the main bad guys, the Dark Elves, get completely overlooked. It was all too much for me on a rewatch and I just hope Jesse never forces me to sit through it again.
Jesse- Chris Hemsworth is fine as Thor and Tom Hiddleston is always a showstopper as Loki, but man oh man did they whiff on the villain in this one. Malekith never explains why he wants to submerge all nine realms in darkness. They never really spend any time explaining why he’s all stoic and evil. We’re just supposed to buy that he’s this ultimate badass, but we don’t. If they don’t even bother trying to make their antagonist relatable or get us to understand his motivation, then what the hell is the point? This is the one Marvel movie that I can’t even sit down and enjoy. Highly disappointing.
9. Iron Man 2
Kevin- “Oh come on Jesse, Iron Man 2 was great! You just forgot how good it was!” Ouch those words came back to hurt me pretty quickly. Or should I say slowly? Because the middle of Iron Man 2 was such a slow and painful drag that I honestly stopped caring about Tony Stark. Also Whiplash was as bad of a supervillain as Justin Hammer was as bad of a weapons specialist. Seriously Hammer was an idiot.
Jesse- A boring and miserably dull middle? I can get over that. Whiplash is defeated very easily by Iron Man not once, but twice? Not the end of the world. Characters talking over each other so often that you can’t make out what they’re saying? Whatever man, there’s enough jokes to offset that. But taking the extremely talented Sam Rockwell and completely wasting him as an incompetent stooge? Too far, Marvel. Too far.
8. Iron Man 3
Kevin- I don’t care what Jesse says, I love Iron Man 3. Mostly because I love watching Jesse shake his head in anger every time I mention the fake Mandarin. Again I realized this movie was not as good as I remembered and it doesn’t hold a candle to the original Iron Man. But I still am one of the few that enjoyed the revelation of the Mandarin. I though it was a great and unique twist.
Jesse- There’s no question that Iron Man 3 is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. When I reviewed it back in 2013, I praised it for the wonderful character arc given to Tony Stark and for being a highly entertaining action-filled romp. I also criticized the controversial treatment of the Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch-nemesis and one of the more iconic Marvel villains. I stand by all of that.
After a couple of additional viewings and checking out the Marvel One-Shot, “All Hail the King,” I find myself enjoying Iron Man 3 more than I did initially. So there’s that.
Kevin- Unlike its sequel, Thor is relatively simple and straightforward. Loki made his debut and proved himself to be a strong villain. And Thor’s earth friends were surprisingly fun. Overall not a great film but not a bad one either.
Jesse- My God, I didn’t fully realize just how much better the original Thor movie is than the sequel until I watched them relatively close together. Not much original to see here, but this one doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows how to have fun. Can’t say the same for The Dark World.
6. The Incredible Hulk
Kevin- I remember really enjoying this movie the first time I saw it. In this rewatch I realized how poorly it has aged. Not in terms of a standalone film but rather in terms of the Marvel Universe. It’s the square block going into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit anymore.
Jesse- Agreed. Still a pretty solid Hulk movie, but this is definitely the forgotten son of the MCU. And honestly that’s too bad, because I liked all of these characters. Maybe someday they’ll give Mark Ruffalo a crack at reigniting this franchise. Or maybe this is just the one time when Marvel didn’t plan things out very well. I’m inclined to think the latter.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
Kevin- This movie is only damaged by its superior sequel. Going back to watch The First Avenger is somewhat underwhelming after the over-the-top and action packed Winter Soldier. On its own the movie is still solid. A nice, slow pace that really builds Cap as the martyr and patriot that he is. Throw in Agent Carter and Red Skull and this movie earns high praise from me.
Jesse- I’ve never understood why this movie gets so much criticism. It isn’t perfect and it sort of lives in the shadow of The Winter Soldier now, but that doesn’t mean The First Avenger isn’t any good. Far from it, in fact. I always dug the retro vibe of World War II that we see here, in addition to the fact that Cap bonds with his companions long before he ever becomes a Super Soldier. Anyone can take a serum and become ridiculously fast and ripped, but it takes a good man to truly recognize the value of that gift and not abuse it. You know, with great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
Kevin- Remember when I called Hulk the square block trying to fit in a round hole? Well Guardians is the irregular, quadrilateral square block that blows up the round hole and then flips it off. It is almost like Marvel got sick of its own shit and said, “And now for something completely different…” Which is why this movie is adored by so many. It is funny, ridiculous, vulgar and action packed. And I probably could argue this movie could beat any of the top three remaining on the list.
Jesse- Everything that Kevin said is absolutely true. Guardians is easily the funniest comic book movie I’ve ever seen and there’s just something so wonderfully unique about it. It was a breath of fresh air from how Marvel typically operates. What I really loved is that, unlike in The Avengers, the Guardians didn’t come together just to simply defeat a great threat and common enemy. These are damaged, vulnerable individuals who desperately needed to make a connection to someone else. To watch that come together in two hours of hilarious, high octane glory is truly something to behold.
3. Iron Man
Kevin- Have you ever been in an argument over which Mario game is the best or even which season of Survivor is number one? No? Well I have and every time the age old argument of Super Mario Bros and Survivor Borneo are the best because they were first and without them everything that happened afterwards would not have happened. It’s like saying fire was the best human invention because it was first. Usually that belief is difficult to uphold because the originals just don’t hold up to modern standards. Fortunately Iron Man has bucked that trend. The original MCU movie is still one of the superior films and it could be easily argued that it is the best. It is a strong origin story that is brought to life brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr. This movie single-handedly created the massive influx of comic book movies and TV shows.
Jesse- The original Iron Man has held up well over time for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s just a really cool story. A narcissistic, abrasive but lovable playboy genius decides to right the wrongs of his past and protect the innocent with a high-tech suit? Great stuff. Then there’s the writing and action, which gives the narrative some room to breath and knows just the right moment to dial up the intensity. There’s also a plethora of great supporting characters here, particularly Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. But the biggest reason is the performance of Robert Downey Jr., who was born to play the role of Tony Stark and took it to heights that no one else would’ve even come close to reaching. It was once-in-a-lifetime casting that made the very idea of a shared move universe possible.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Kevin- I won’t lie, Cap 2 seriously overwhelmed my senses. As I sat down to rewatch it I started recalling all the events that were about to take place. I was not convinced they could pack everything in 2 hours and 16 minutes. But they sure did. Earlier I complained about how jam packed Thor 2 was. Cap 2 was probably packed even more but far superior. What was the difference? Well Cap 2 wasn’t boring and its events impacts the entire MCU. Everything that happened needed to happen. We even got another attempted martyr moment from good ol’ Cap. What a guy, he won’t stop until he is dead permanently. Some people are nervous about the upcoming Cap sequel which will be using the events of The Civil War. After seeing how well they packed in so much to this movie, I am not worried about the third one.
Jesse- Oh man, where do I start for praising this film. How about creating an intriguing, political thriller with constant twists and turns? Check. Making Nick Fury seem vulnerable for the first time? You bet. How about exploring the relationship between Cap and Black Widow without succumbing to a cliche romance subplot? Double check. I could go on and on, but we’re on a time crunch here. This is a superb movie that puts Cap’s evolution as a hero on full display while simultaneously questioning whether ideals such as freedom and virtue even exist anymore. Is it better than Iron Man or Guardians? Well that’s really up to you. We enjoyed the hell out of it and that’s why it’s here at no. 2.
1. The Avengers
Kevin- I am convinced that this crazy idea of rewatching all MCU movies was thought up by Jesse just so he could remind me how great this movie was. I always liked it but I stopped short of saying it was the best MCU film. Well now I am almost completely convinced. Really any of the top 4 could have this spot in my mind. But The Avengers is unique because it brings together a universe in a way we nerds never thought possible. Somehow they managed to squeeze an amazing amount of characters into a small amount of time. And sure Hawkeye gets the shaft but who really cares about Hawkeye at this point? The Avengers is a marvel because the years of build up from secret scenes and films finally culminated into a high-action, hilarious and drama-filled movie that never stops. This movie proved that the future of cinema is in massive, sprawling and detailed franchises. It is no longer good enough to make an entertaining movie. Now you must create a fascinating world. Take a look at what Star Wars and DC are planning and you will see that The Avengers changed the near future of the movie experience.
Jesse- The Avengers remains of the most satisfying joyrides that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing at the movie theater. Witnessing some of our favorite heroes all teaming up in the same movie was unprecedented, and at that time it was a bold gamble by Marvel. What if it had been horrible? The entire MCU would have collapsed before it ever got started and right now, we would probably be watching rebooted versions of Iron Man, Cap and Thor. Thanks to Joss Whedon’s vision and sure-handed direction, that didn’t happen and The Avengers was an enormous success. I don’t know that Age of Ultron will top it, but who cares? If you love comic books and movies, it’s a hell of a time to be alive.